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Samskara and the Witness: Yoga’s Value in the Time of Trump.

Samskaras are impressions that form our unconscious thoughts and actions.

Bramacharya is the tempering of excess.

 

I have a failing dog whose cries sound like a bird that has newly taken residence in my yard. He falls and the puppy runs in to tell me. Is it him or a bird? I jump up now when I hear the bird. I am confused and it’s corrupting my concentration. My impressions are nervous and exhausting. I recognize that something must change. My choices challenge me.

 

Obstruction of justice, Russia, agenda, fake news, collusion, credibility and incompetence represent the concepts that frame America this day of June 8th. James Comey, former FBI Director will be heard. The moon will be full. The pundits will interpret and Americans will take sides.

 

Here in Nashville, the city is teaming with tourists for Bonaroo and CMA week. Music fills the air. The town is charged with love for our hockey team the Nashville Predators who will compete for the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh tonight. They are my clients. Music is much of my moving life. I am not entirely distracted by politics today.  I throw my thrown gardener’s back into the mix. I am in pain so I’m already irritated. Just these things create a background for my impressions of the news today. This is a molecule of what informs my consciousness. The rest is my history. And yours.

 

I remember saluting the flag with pride. I remember a country that made me feel safe. I remember a mannered country even if it was only the surface. I remember feeling the grownups in charge would take care of me. But then I was raised kindly in a safe and privileged place by two grownups who are together 64 years today. I have an impression. I am loved and I love easily. I was raised by people who took care of those weaker or less fortunate. I believe in entitlements which I think is a horrible word for helping those less advantaged. I have traveled and felt the sameness of folks from different worlds. I embraced the alternative world of yoga and shunned the status quo as a young adult. It was a time that embraced that.

 

I know to listen to the opinions of people who think differently than I do because I am aware that my impressions color my views.  I admit to rage over what I perceive as deeply cynical or naïve views. I can barely stand to watch Fox news though my husband insists we do to understand what we’re dealing with. But I see obnoxious. And I know those people see MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and the newspapers that once had the greatest gravitas the same way and worse.

 

How do we witness objectively? How do we begin to lose our impressions and be an unbiased jury?

 

We listen to the words out of people’s mouths without interpreters. We come from kindness to embrace all living creatures and this earth. We look for credible evidence which means it can be proved. We choose to withhold absolute opinion. If we’re lucky we feel what feels right according to the rules of right and wrong we learned at home, at worship houses, at school.  If we had none of that we look for something to trust. Something of love. Something of light.

 

In yoga we breathe gently with consciousness in rhythm with movement. We hold our attention to the sensations of the moments. We try to lift the cloud by being patient. We hone awareness. When confronted with truthful feelings we examine them. It’s not foolproof but it’s what yoga offers.

 

My impression is that both the words liberal and conservative are good in context. Liberal when it means generous. Conservative when restraint is called for to reign in incorrect generosity. That concept is covered in modern yoga as bramacharya.  Modern yoga philosophy recognizes the other factors that allow us to recognize bramacharya in our own lives.

 

This is not a tutorial on yoga. It is to say that yoga is needed more than ever in these days of confusion. When right and wrong is no longer absolute, when facts are called fake, when robots are manipulating our impressions for gain, it is imperative that we find a way home.

 

Author’s note: this is truly a blog post written quickly and as ….. an impression. :()

 

 

 

 

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In the Age of Trump, is a Protest an Act of Sedition or Civil War?

 To resist a new regime is to revolt against the countrymen who unwittingly sold souls to create it.

The goal of yoga is to lift the veil of one’s ignorance, to see, to feel, to know yourself. I am a yoga teacher but whose ignorance have I helped to lift?

Certainly not the guests I sat with at the last dinner party who were on the surface a like minded circle of liberals. When a millennial guest sitting beside his soldier partner told us that his sweet country mother voted for Trump because she was angry that Obama used the company plane to go to Hawaii, tongues clucked in sympathy. It wasn’t her fault that she’s a simpleton. Sighing empathy all round.

I wanted to slam my fist on the gloriously set table and scream. Fuck that. There is no excuse for that level of ignorance or pettiness. Your mother is an asshole and so are you for not shoving facts in her face.

Hell, I did it to my mother when he won the Primary and it took a week of arguments before she came to her senses blinded as she was by the glorious image of the sparkling Von Trump children gracing a stately White House. She has always been a cup full full kind of dreamer. She’s also a bit vain despite her social work background and was infuriated by the sight of Hillary Clinton’s pant suits. And she doesn’t realize she was raised to believe that men are men and there is no excuse for a woman who doesn’t learn to manage that situation with wit and she still believes that. She would deny all of this but I know it’s true.

In a new nation where facts are considered opinions by some and fake news has no rival for others, it is near impossible to have a rational conversation with someone who voted for Trump these days. In fact it’s even hard to have an agreeable conversation with anyone but the most like minded people. My dinner party hostess told me later she thinks it’s pointless to try to convince people of anything.  You can’t change anyone’s mind and it’s not your place. I told her to tell that to Martin Luther King.

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No one was hurt when Clinton was loose with her mail. But Trump stole the tuition of innocent working folks at Trump University. In this, his defenders say Clinton is the crook. They know the word e-mail. They seem to think that’s enough.  Argue with them and you’ll want to put a bullet through your head. I had a client tell me that Clinton had people murdered and though I countered, look at the person’s history and judge if that is likely and by the way that was fake news, she was unmovable. She said the two candidates are equally bad. When I hear that I want to sling shit like a caged ape.

If half the country is the other halves adversary or enemy, is it an act of sedition for one half to march against the other or is that a call to civil war?

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He will become President.  A march in protest is a march against the people who voted for him and the people who didn’t vote. That is more than half the country but it matters.

I do have friends who voted for Trump. I love these people though I disrespect their willingness to deny facts and worse, to defend their beliefs with twisted logic. I have to look at what I love about them and stay the course. And I have to speak my mind and also listen to them or they are not my friends.

Still I know that my protest is an act of anger against them. Any protestor denying that is simply afraid to see the truth because it is painful to fight with the people you love. Maybe worse, it’s painful to think that the people you love don’t respect you either.

Trump has initiated a fight with the people who share his country and the countries that share our interests. He is a fighter. That is what he does. He describes it one step past that. He says he is a winner. We can stand down or express our concerns. Will that initiate a civil war? I’d say the war has already begun.

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We are Salesmen

It’s a new day.  So I open e-mail even though I don’t want to because that’s what responsible people do. I’m being sold. I’m braced for the assault. Buy this, think this, try this, help this, read this. If I put this rant on my site I am selling. If I put it on social media, I am marketing. Anyone with a Facebook account is a salesman.

 

This export/import business of social media sucks a lot of time. That’s why I see some friends less unless I make the effort. Some are lost in the bazaar. They are exporting and importing, trading with friends and strangers from solitary seats. It’s a fluid life without scheduled time so these things tend to run all over the day and night. The nature of man is to ingest and eliminate and so maybe this is a natural extension but me, I have indigestion.

 

I worked for a couple of yoga studios after I left mine. The yoga scene had shifted to what would be known as modern yoga though that had happened about a hundred years ago.

 

I was told it was my responsibility to promote my classes on social media. The only reason I’d gone to a studio was to avoid self promotion. It didn’t work out. Though I am a gregarious hostess, I am more a recluse than a joiner when it comes to strangers. I am not comfortable with a disingenuous life. The act of reaching out to strangers through a black hole befuddles me. On the other hand, I have no problem presenting my work as a resume to the world. Websites seem a logical solution.

 

So What’s in a Name?

It was the late 1900’s and an entrepreneurial client had bought a website company for a hobby. He wanted to build a website and insisted it be mine and demanded I create a name for my company which was only me and gave me a computer to boot despite my protests. I didn’t give a crap about a name so I picked Active Yoga since I was teaching a physically powerful class and I figured it gave the right impression and of course it started with the letter A so that had to be a plus in the now defunct phone book. It seemed like a lame name but there were no other yoga sites as far as I knew. Yoga people didn’t have websites so it didn’t matter what I called it. Famous last clueless thoughts…

 

That website was a day-glow mess and now my “brand” was out on the new world wide net so I enlisted the young web designer husband of one of my ballerina students to give me a professional make-over. I wanted something that read like a book. He wanted flash and sizzle. We argued. I told him my students wouldn’t even know how to engage a technical site. He told me, “Your students are stupid!”

 

I told him I wanted it to be a resume of my experience. He told me, “No one gives a shit about content. You will be the only one who will ever read it!” I told him that was fine.

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In 2000 I added the domain name Rebel Yoga since that had become the unofficial title the students had given me but it was unusable in the South considering the Civil War and all. It was later the moniker of a couple of excellent yoga saleswomen from the East and fourteen years later I dumped it for a grand.

 

Active Yoga went through one more incarnation a few years ago so I could manage it myself. I leave it there for posterity though I’m told to add content every week to drive traffic. Driving traffic is a passionless activity for me so I don’t bother. Where a website was once marketing, it is now dead as a tome filed in the tombs of the library’s basement if you don’t sell it regularly.

 

Now we use our names for titles because we are our own brand. It makes perfect sense and why didn’t I think of this sooner? Every yoga teacher certainly alters the yoga they learned as it’s alchemized by individual perception. Of course my yoga is Hilary Lindsay Yoga. Why had I wished to presume anonymity when I was posting a website? I should have just shouted my name but then in those days before we became voyeurs, people valued privacy. Now I am HilaryLindsayYoga.com but it comes up as Active Yoga because like my husband’s last name, it has become me.

 

Look at the biggest salesman of all, Donald Trump! He has his name on everything and if it has his name you have an impression of it whether it’s clothes or meat or a tower or a golf course.

Trump

Despite the image of Trump, sales are not a bad thing.  How else would we know what is out there?  I’ve been sold so many things that improve my life and I’m grateful.

 

On the other hand, social media imitates a third world open market with hawkers trying to get each others attention. Like you, I am often bored, suspicious and exhausted by it. Like you, I am lucky when a good salesman catches my eye and fortunate when I recognize a fraud. What we ingest we must digest. That’s what I have to say about shopping and buying. We are all in sales unless we can live solitary lives not dependent on others. We pick what we can assimilate. No need to apologize unless you think you are the one who can change the nature of our economy to something better but don’t try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wonderful and Terrible

I teach yoga to the veterans and when they don’t show up I hang out in what stands for their lobby given the coffee maker and odd array of stained chairs.

I chitchat with the mostly old guys who come to Operation Stand Down for companionship and shelter.

 

A radiant sky turns black. Gale force winds swiftly strain branches and rain ricochets to the sky from the murky pavement in waves. A roomful of heads turn.

Wire rimmed granny glasses and a head of brown curls frame the face of an ageless fellow with an unwavering grin. He regards the storm and me.

“It’s wonderful and terrible! “

 I concur.

“I want to get out in it”, he says.

I agree though neither of us makes a move toward the blitz.

 

And then it’s over as quickly as it began.

I’m left with the joyful resonance of wonderful and terrible.

 

Our unavoidable political process

My youngest son

The yoga business

The animals that eat and get eaten

We people that love and hurt and hurt each other

Abundance and the fear of loss

Poverty and the hope of redemption

The rush tinged with terror

A placid pond with vicious mosquitoes

The lightning bolt in a purple sky

The earth’s thirst quenched and the choking flood.

 

From my singular position to the macrocosm I suddenly realize it’s all the same.

At once and always

 

This is the beautiful wonder-filled life we were handed

This is the one we were born to love

To want to get out in it no matter its nature, is ours.

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The Voice of Civilization

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During the last election, a voice analyst on public radio discussed what one might glean from the voices of John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

 

She said that Hillary was unlikable and perceived as whiny when she raised her voice because as a woman, she is the “voice of civilization” and no one likes to hear the voice of civilization sound peeved. She explained that the voice of civilization tells you to take a shower, take your vitamins and make your bed. She said that we can take it when a man raises his voice because it’s acceptable but the voice that maintains order in the home must be sweet. A woman sounds trashy, while a man sounds, well, manly.

 

There have been more than a few times in my life when a man has shouted, “don’t yell at me” when I’ve raised my voice just enough to be emphatic and if I’ve been foolish enough to insist in a firm voice that I am not yelling, I’ve been shouted back at by someone who doesn’t seem to notice the irony.

 

I’m wondering who was trying to fool us when they made a commercial for some antidepressant with a woman doing the voice-over in a reassuring, confident, voice of civilization kind of trustworthy way. She’s letting me know I might be depressed even if I don’t think so and that I can get a pill that will keep the depression away. She’s a siren luring sailors to a drowning death, cooing like Snow White to her seven dwarfs, convincing me to take the pill which can cause me to kill myself or have a stroke or destroy my liver or cause tremors and nausea. Those things don’t even sound dangerous when she describes them like she’s sharing her secrets for immortality.

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Is this the tone a woman must take to be heard as she campaigns against men for the presidency? Shall she manipulate her tone to be a voice that we can hear without being reactive?

 

The answer is yes for some of the public and my advice for Hillary Clinton as she campaigns in 2016 is to put on the veil of illusion that is not much different from any other political manipulation that we are so aware of because it will allow her to even the playing field as a woman. Give them the voice of civilization as men perceive it. That would be a masterful political stroke. That is the strongest voice there is and this is a year of the master game.

 

You have only to take a page from Donald Trump’s playbook to see how simple it is to manipulate people when you give them what they think they want. I do not imagine he would break bread with most of the crowd he has amassed. He is not one of them but they have missed that being so caught up in his relentless performance.

 

If this election points out anything it is that people are frightened. Period. Give them the cool hand on the scorched forehead, Senator. Let the vehicle of civilization lure them, lull them into your lap.

 

Trump’s wife and beloved daughter know that. He told the rabid crowd in Arizona yesterday that they both urged him to act presidential. Listen to your women, Trump. They are the voices trying to civilize you.

 

Author’s note: This post was revised from a post I wrote in 2008 railing against drug sales on television which I found doubly heinous when done with a woman’s voice over.  This is not a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump but a point of view on the differences of the sexes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sanders, Trump and Yoga

There is a murmur in the corner of the not so tiny yoga community about the state of affairs of yoga.

Bitchin Yoga always weighs in as vigorous claims interest her. For her, what was once surprising is not now. Age teaches. The state is adrift at the surface which is why she’s keen on learning high wire skills. Beneath the surface not much has changed.

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Consider this in terms of this election year. An unsettling season of ferocity seems normal these days. What once seemed weird or alternative or unlikely now seems a solution as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rise in the polls. Judgment of some kinds ceases as the Status Quo fails to deliver. Unconventional organizers ascend and division is clear.

The time is right for the once strange of yoga to increase in popularity, attract developers and further divide in these days of radical unrest and financial uncertainty.

Yoga practitioners with a pre-modern yoga history had little to distract us from the practice as it wasn’t tied to livelihood or even solutions to specific social problems. Modern yogis have a different experience to reckon with. Survival is paramount and so is unleashed creativity if they want to stay in what has become the game.

 

Yoga isn’t fringe anymore and “mindfulness” has pierced the commercial world. Yoga class as a *“mindful” exercise isn’t necessarily entirely different from a yoga classes twenty five years ago but as an increasing component of the public domain, it is presented differently. Now it is subject to regulations enforced by an outside source. That changes the flavor of things. The outside source used to be the first and second limb of yoga.

 

Before blogging there was a book on the state of yoga in America. Hearkening back to the chapter I wrote for that book, I still think that the first limbs of yoga are the key to the state of yoga and most things in America right now. Attraction or willful rebellion to those guiding principles of ethical restraints as well as the interpretation of those principles shapes the character of our choices. We are flailing wildly perhaps not realizing we are looking for direction. But we look for structure nonetheless.

 

To put it simply, the first limb describes the social offenses to avoid if one wants a peaceful life. The second limb describes the components of that life. In short, if you are doing the right thing you will sleep at night and want to take the next breath in the morning. But what is the right thing if not an opinion these days?

 

Look at the followers of Trump and Sanders and a yogi will notice that what looks like non-violence, honesty, lack of greed or gluttony and overstepping one’s power is not the same for everyone. Perception comes from individual experience of life. In fact there are a disturbing amount of stories of power abuse in yoga studios though the owners seem clueless. How interesting that a major goal of yoga is to break through this veil of perception to see truth.

 

What truth is has become one of the paramount questions of our time. Politicians tell their truths. It is different for each of them. They inform and influence the greater group. The group has shared truths. Some things become evident and absolute but often the case is not closed. This is the state of the yoga studio and teacher as well.

 

Discontentment’s fire fuels us and the West becomes a Wild West again. We will survive at all costs. We will sling guns where we want. We will break boundaries in relationship to all things whether it is sex, drugs, rules, racism and yes yoga. Political incorrectness has become correct. Survival comes first. When you open doors it is interesting to see who and how we choose to walk through them.

 

Is the yoga being taught now working? I’m sure it is working for some students because the interest in walking through a door that advertises illumination is to want that. So if the student keeps walking in and the teacher is at least conveying that yoga is the practice of self awareness or discipline or kindness then some yoga is being taught. Perhaps it is enough if the student recognizes there is work to do and because we are hard working people we can embrace that. We are the work we have to do. Perhaps that is the surface we want to scrape.

 

As for the financial survival of the teachers it is like other businesses today. The price of everything except salaries is going up. Perhaps that’s why so many teachers use yoga as their hobby or second business. Still, more people are putting hard earned cash into teacher training that won’t pay them back in much more than a brief education. There must be some pay off for them. That says to me their yoga experience has got them hooked, hopefully on more than ego. That’s not a bad thing.

 

It is a long time since I had a studio. I was lucky to be part of our local ballet company and my rent was cheap. I did not hire or fire. There were no Groupons and for that, there was no competition. We had punch cards and an honor system and a yoga family that lasted longer than the average attrition rate now. I am grateful beyond measure for that beautiful experience. I cannot say I know the state of yoga now but I know one thing for sure. It is a changing status while beneath the surface the seed of yoga is not.

 

*This is noted because I don’t like the use of the non- word mindfulness when thoughtful worked just fine. I used it here because it is part of yoga culture now.

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Everything Will Be Alright

 

She approaches me after class. Tells me she’s in law school. She and her peers are suffering from P.T.S.D. she says. From life.

She’s responding to a comment I made in class. I consider it pure luck that I have a positive position on the life we share at the moment.

Things need to break. The shit storm of happenstance and wrong actions that are instigating an onslaught of information on disaster is also precipitating a wellspring of solutions. That is a wellspring of love. That is the breath we choose.

Hilary Lindsay-one precious life

Hilary Lindsay-one precious life

The human condition shifts with awareness and it changes with our reactions. I see many hopeful reactions despite the barrage of sorrowful scenarios. We are looking for ways out. We are wielding sledgehammers. We are scraping peeling paint.

As radical politicians move the conversation from the usual banter, awareness grows. As spokesmen, leaders and newscasters inform people on pollution, poverty and violence against each other and the planet, quiet numbers choose to make things better in small and large ways.

It’s a life of small steps. We just step faster now. Diverse paths are rapidly emerging.

Some of us will be sacrificed no doubt. It was never easy to be aware.

But it would be less glorious to not be.

To blame nature’s weather or planets for our discomfort is shortsighted as well. Instability is nature itself. The perfect day will not last no matter how we pray for that.

Welcome to your place in the world. To smash and break it until it is right for you without harming any creature is artful. Perhaps that’s why the arts sustain us through hard times.

Remember, we are all artists. Your expression inspires mine. This is a beautiful instability.

Even trauma can generate beauty.

 

 

 

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